Study Guide

Tom Jones Book 1, Chapter 1

By Henry Fielding

Book 1, Chapter 1

The Introduction to the Work, or Bill of Fare to the Feast

  • An author needs to think of himself as a restaurant owner and not as a rich guy handing out treats to the masses.
  • When a rich person gives donations to poor people, he expects that they'll take whatever he wants to give them.
  • They can't criticize him for the quality of his gift, because he has all the power.
  • But restaurant owners have paying customers who will complain if they don't like what they're served.
  • So restaurant owners give their customers menus to let them know: this is what I have to offer; please buy my stuff—I swear you'll like it!
  • Similarly, with novels, people will read what they want to read, and they'll complain if they don't get what they want.
  • The narrator is going to imitate real-life restaurant owners by giving us (the readers) a menu of what we can expect from the novel to come.
  • If we know what to expect, we'll be less likely to complain as we read the book.
  • And here's what is on the menu for Tom Jones: "human nature" (1.1.4).
  • The narrator is positive that we won't get bored consuming a story about human nature, since people are so weird and varied that it's sure to be fun to read.
  • He also plans to talk about all social levels, to go from the lowest natures to the highest.
  • If this menu sounds good to you, then keep reading the novel (suggests the narrator).